Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How to Start Drawing: 2 Do's and 2 Don'ts

A lot of people want to learn how to draw. If you Google "learn to draw" you'll find advertisements for schools, online classes, videos, DVDs, books, expensive tablets and materials, all promising to help you learn to draw.

The good news is that you don't need most of those things in order to get started. What you need is time, and a little direction. Here's my bare-bones, super-cheap, anyone-can-do-it guide to getting started with drawing.

  • Just start drawing. As long as you have a pencil and paper, you can start. Here's what to draw:
    • Draw from life. This is the best way to learn to draw. Drawing from life teaches your mind to translate 3D objects in your vision to 2D shapes on paper. Learning to think in 3D will give your drawings a visible confidence and consistency. Draw people at the cafe, on the subway, in church. Draw your pets while they're sleeping, draw your own feet, visit a zoo and draw the animals, set up a still life on a table and draw that. It doesn't really matter what you draw; as long as you're drawing from life, then you're exercising that 3D-to-2D muscle in your mind.
    • Draw from photos. Drawing from photos doesn't help you practice thinking in 3D, because you're translating a shape from one 2D surface (the photo) to another (your sketchbook). However, photos can introduce you to shapes that would be difficult to find in real life - cool stuff like castles, tigers, planets. Sketch any photo that interests you - and it is totally ok to trace things just for practice.
    • Draw from your imagination. This is where you develop your personal voice. When you draw from imagination, you're not just copying what you see, but remembering things you've seen before and interpreting them in your own way. Keep this fun and light; don't try any complex crowd scenes or else you'll get frustrated. The more you draw from life and from photos, the more material your imagination will have to work with, and the easier it will get. All three practices feed into each other.
  • Sign up for inexpensive, local art classes. Start with the basics, such as figure drawing, landscape painting, chiaroscuro (which means "light and shadow"), color theory, etc. You may decide to enroll in a more specialized art school later, but you don't need that private school price tag in order to start learning the fundamentals. The classes at your local community college or community center will do just fine - just as long as they have those horribly uncomfortable bench-easel things. Those are essential!
  • Don't get distracted by the business side of art. If you read online (including blogs like mine) you'll start reading about the importance of developing a style, of putting together a portfolio, of building a fanbase. Don't worry about it. Those are directions that will make sense to you once you're further down the path. Getting distracted by those things at this early point will just stress you out. Focus on drawing for now.
  • Don't post your drawings on social media.  If you're a beginner artist, posting your art on social media will just distract and confuse you. You'll start worrying about why your drawings aren't getting "likes" and comparing your stats to others. Why is everyone ignoring me? Does my art just suck? Why does that other person's drawing have one thousand reblogs and mine only has four??? Why did that one quick sketch get 40 likes but that epic painting I spent weeks on only got 15 likes? For now, consider your artistic voice to be a tender little plant, and protect it from the harsh winds of social media. Seriously, you'll be happier.

Finally, remember that learning to draw takes years. Settle in and don't stress about it.

A lot of people want to learn to draw, but few people actually pursue it. By getting out pencil and paper and drawing, and by taking classes, you're already doing something a lot of people are afraid to do. Whether you choose to pursue it as a career or a hobby, I'm proud of you.


  1. Wonderful post! I think it's incredibly important to stress that art is all about loving what you do. That doesn't mean it's going to be all good fun. You won't be able to translate eveything you imagine into paper two days after you started drawing, but it does help to remind oneself every once in a while that you should do it because you like it, not because you're looking for likes on Instagram or Facebook. Art for the sake of likes is soulless.
    Together with your previous post, I'm full of inspiration to go and make art♥

  2. A helpful reminder for any artist at any stage of their development.

    It is nice to be reminded that social media likes don't measure your value and that can grow by doing regardless of results rather than worry.


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